NHL pounds 86m in red as bad debts grow

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NATIONAL Home Loans, the ailing mortgage lender, yesterday announced an pounds 85.9m pre-tax loss for the first half of 1991, despite a pounds 540m emergency refinancing from its 59 banks in June.

Huge bad debt provisions in its commercial lending arm and mortgage accounts in arrears were largely responsible for the losses. There is no interim dividend, compared with 3.75p a share a year earlier.

NHL has been teetering on the financial brink since last July, when local authorities withdrew funds on deposit after the Bank of Credit and Commerce International collapsed. A group of 10 banks extended a pounds 200m cash lifeboat to rescue the firm last summer.

However, continued deterioration in the housing market has exposed shaky loans and kept the lender struggling to stay afloat.

After announcing a pounds 48m loss for the 1991 financial year in November, chief executive Kevin Milner and several other directors departed.

Other drastic measures have been taken. The businesses of the loss-making National Mortgage Bank arm, commercial and consumer loans and leasing, are being run down. The group has reduced its staff by more than a third in the past year, from 931 to 526. The company has also leased its plush Solihull headquarters to British Gas for five years, and has returned to previous premises to save an estimated pounds 2.5m.

In the six months to 31 March, NHL made loss provisions of pounds 79.4m, of which pounds 52m were in National Mortgage Bank. NMB itself made a pounds 61m loss.

Another pounds 20m in provisions in the group was made to cover non- payment of interest on mortgages in arrears.

As of June, 7,461 of NHL's 61,750 accounts were in arrears by three months or more - down 10 per cent from a February peak - and 1,828 properties were in possession. The repossessed properties are being sold at a rate of 250 a month. More than 2,000 NHL borrowers are repaying interest on arrears under arrangements. Jonathan Perry, executive chairman, said NHL's priorities were to make progress with arrears and return its focus to housing finance. NHL also hopes to extend the dates of maturity of pounds 160m of outstanding bonds to match the pounds 540m bank debt rescheduling for 1995 completed last month.

The company did not rule out selling itself, or seeking an alliance with a stronger partner. But Mr Perry said that as soon as its overall position had improved, NHL would consider attracting new funding to rebuild the mortgage business, and might also try to market its skills in managing mortgage portfolios.

Another blow to NHL's results was a pounds 19.3m tumble in net interest income over the period. This was caused by reduced income on the lower level of NHL assets and higher financing costs.

NHL's share price closed unchanged yesterday at 2 1/4p. At their peak in 1991, the shares hit 157p.